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25th Mar 2023

Brit travelled to war-torn Ukraine for dental treatment – after he couldn’t get NHS appointment

Steve Hopkins

‘Over there, anyone can walk in off the street and be seen straight away – and the country is literally a warzone’

A Brit was forced to travel to war-torn Ukraine for dental treatment – after he failed to get an appointment with the NHS.

Richard Howe developed an abscess under his tooth last month, which was causing him severe discomfort.

The 58-year-old called his local NHS dentist to book an appointment but was told he’d have to go private to be seen – at considerable cost.

So, Richard decided to travel to Kyiv, where he lived before the war, to get the work done at his old dental practice.

And it was half the price quoted in the UK, including travel costs.

The dad-of-three, from Ely, Cambridgeshire, said: “I was in loads of pain, but I was told outright there was no chance of me getting an appointment with the NHS.

“So, I got one in Ukraine, straight away, for a fraction of the cost. It just shows how much of a mess NHS dental care is over here right now.”

Richard, whose wife is Ukrainian, grew frustrated after being fobbed off by his local NHS dentist.

The quote to have his abscess removed privately was a minimum of £875, plus a £75 emergency fee.

Richard spent 12 years living in Kiev with his wife and family and returned back to the UK a month before Vladimir Putin invasion in February 2022.

He still has contacts at the Clinic of Modern Dentistry, the Ukrainian practice where he used to visit, so he rung them up to book an appointment.

They told him they could see him immediately, prompting Richard to fly to Poland on February 28, and catch a 13 hour train across the border to Kyiv.

Within the space of one week, he had his abscess drained, and extra work done, including three root canals and a filling, for just £220.

Richard said: “When I saw the bill, I knew it had been worth it.”

Richard had four separate appointments in Ukraine, and then made his way back to Cambridgeshire. He says during his stay he heard air raid sirens go off every day, and had to abide by a strict 11pm – 5am curfew the city has in place.

On 8 March, while on the train back to Poland, Putin launched 80 missiles into Ukraine.

Richard, who used to work in the motoring industry, made it back unscathed but admits it opened his eyes to the risks he’d run by returning to the country.

He added: “Kyiv was a lot quieter than it was before, and there were anti-tank defences lined across the streets ready to be moved at a moments notice.

“Air sirens went off around two to three times a day, but the locals are pretty used to it by now, so they were quite calm.

“It’s crazy that we’ve invited Ukrainian nationals to take refuge in the UK, but if they have a tooth problem, they have zero chance of being seen by an NHS dentist.

“But over there, anyone can walk in off the street and be seen straight away, whatever their nationality – and the country is literally a war zone. It’s very backwards.”

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